Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Appalachian Road Trip

It started out with a three day weekend for both of us. My wife and I both had Good Friday off from work and a desire to explore some more of this great country.

We started out as planned heading towards North Carolina. We made our first stop a little ways out of town to pick up the beginnings or our road trip goodies. I grabbed a Monster and a big bag of Giants Spicy Garlic sunflower seeds. The vampires wouldn't be bothering us on this trip. In fact nobody wanted to stand to close.

We made it out of Ohio in timely fashion. Our next stop was a restroom/get more road trip goodies stop in West Virginia. By the time we stopped the reading on the van's temperature guage was 96 degrees. It was HOT when we got out of the car.

Once we were stocked up we got back on the road again. We took I-77 South through West Virginia. Along the way we saw signs for the worlds greatest shopping in Beckley. As we got close to the exit a sign said left lane ends. I got into the right lane right as it was getting ready to exit off without warning towards the great shopping. With all the speed of the mini van I was able to pass the car beside us and get back onto the through lane. The left lane never ended. We joked that it was a trap to get you lured into the worlds greatest shopping mall.

A few miles down the road there was another sign saying I-77 was splitting off to the right. I took the next split off and ended up smack in the middle of Beckley with no way to get back onto the interstate. We drove through downtown and through a hundred red stop lights before we came to THE MALL! They got us after all. The worlds greatest shopping mall only had 2 stores and gave us a good laugh after seeing all the signs on the way down I-77.

We got back onto interstate and took the correct split the next time. We made it to the southern edge of West Virginia and went through a town called Bluefield. It was an older mining town that reminded me of the movie Valentine. All of the old buildings were a site to see.

We made it into Virginia when we decided to take the roads less traveled on. The first back road made its way over and around the peaks of the Appalachians. It was a very scenic zig zaggy road. The bad thing was it was littered with trash and graphiti on the railings.

A deer crossed the road in front of us at one point. A little ways down the winding curvy road Leo asked where the deer was. We told him that he had ran into the woods. Leo then said "He's dying, he's dying!" I told him "No he ran off the road he's o.k." I glanced back and saw his little brother Gavin turning white as a ghost. We had thought he was still talking about the deer. I was able to pull off right away and Christina got Gavin and the car seat cleaned up.

We made our way towards Troutsdale, as it was in a National Forrest and looked like it had a lot of camping. As we drove into the park we noticed closed campground after closed campground. Apparently the 90 degree weather doesn't make the camping season start any earlier.

There was a little restraunt open so we stopped there to eat. They had surf and turf, 10 oz. ribeye steak and shrimp for 10.99 on the menu so we both got that. With a full belly we were ready to set out on the road again in search of another park that might have camping. As we were leaving the cashier told us that she thought the campground down the road was open and there was also a horse camp that she knew was open.

We drove past the horse camp to the campground and it was closed. With a little backtracking we made it back to the horse camp. We pulled in and set up camp after dark and went to bed right away.

That night the wind would gust about every 30 minutes. Each time it would shake the side of the tent I would raise straight up out of bed. I would just start to fall asleep and the tent would slap again spooking me from my sleep. Finally, about 1 or 2 in the morning I fell asleep for good.

The next morning we were up with the sun. I walked down to the stream that ran behind the camp and first thing I saw was a little brook trout. My blood began to rush and I wanted to fish. Once camp was packed we got back in the car to find a place to buy a fishing liscence and see if we could locate another camp. We drove along the river the stream dumped into and it turned out to be an awesome looking trout river. Along the way we saw several pull offs with free camping.

It was starting to look like we were going to spend the rest of the weekend in this spot. We drove into town to find a liscence and to pick up some lunchmeat and bread. As we got into town there was a sporting goods store. I made a quick stop to price fishing licenses. They did not carry fishing equipment and did not sell licenses so we continued on down the road. We stopped at a gas station for some breakfast food for Leo and Gavin. I looked at a fly rod and reel they had for about 30.00 and thought about getting it since I had left mine at home for some reason. I left it behind and figured we would continue our roadtrip to somewhere else.

There was a grocery store down the road where we stocked up on camping food, wood, and ice. We continued on down the road along the river a ways when I decided I needed that fly rod and reel. We turned around and I now have a new short fly rod and reel. The gas station did not have fly line, backing or flies. I was going to find a wal-mart or a place that had line.

A few more miles down the road we spotted a fly shop. After spending 45.00 on fly line backing and few flies I was set up to go fishing. I asked the gentlemen at the fly shop where I could get a fishing license and they said that Virginia only had 5 day licenses and with a trout stamp would cost nearly 80.00. I couldn't get myself to pay that much to fish for a day and a half. I am sick! I just looked up the price as I am typing this and it is only 11.00 for a 5 day license and 18.00 extra to fish stocked trout waters. The trip would have been a lot different if I had known it was not 80.00 to fish. I will go back for a long weekend trip to that area now.

We decided to travel to Tennessee since the campgrounds in Virginia were closed for the season. I had a spot that I had seen online that looked promising near Elizabethton and it was not too far away. We pulled into the national park campground and it was open to campers only. No tents until April 15th. We stopped ate lunch and played in the park anyway. Oh yeah, it had an awesome trout stream too.

I had heard that the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge area was really awesome and a lot of people go there so we started driving that way. It was early and a good time to set up camp when we arrived to Gatlinburg. After driving through packed downtown Gatlinburg we made our way into the Smokey Mountain National Park. We stopped at the visitor center to look at the map to see where the campgrounds were. All but 1 campground was close and being worked on.

We took our chances and went to the 1 campground. The drive in was beautiful. Another great trout river and this time they have 3 day licenses. Once we made it to the campground we noticed that only 1/4 of it was open and it was packed full of tents. That was a devastating blow. At that point we just wanted to camp and realized it was not going to happen.

I pulled out the GPS and pointed it towards home. We would make it back around 2:00 A.M. We stopped at a picnic area along the river before leaving the park to have supper and play near the river.

Then we got settled in for a long trip back home. Along the route back home I spotted a State Park sign pointing towards Norris Lake in Northern Tennessee. We decided to check it out and believe it or not we could camp there.

The kids went to sleep pretty quickly and my wife and I sat outside enjoying a couple hours of each others company.

The next morning was Easter. Everybody slept in a little longer and when we got up the kids went outside and found easter eggs that had been scattered throughout our camping spot. Gavin was picking up the eggs and eating the candy out of each one before he went to the next one for a bit until he saw Leo was filling his basket quickly.

As the egg hunt ended Leo was ready to play on the massive fort/playground that was near the campsite. I let him go over to explore it by himself. Christina told me to go check on him after a minute and when I did I was not surprised to see him staning on the top of the 18' structure where your not suppose to be. He didn't know how to get back down so I had to climb up to rescue him.

I found out Norris lake is known for great striper fishing near the dam and has good trout fishing below the dam. I looked up the fishing report online from my phone while we were there and it had one of the most extensive fishing reports. It explained what patterns were working and where for each species of fish.

We drove to an overlook of the lake on the way out then started heading towards Kentucky. We were going to spend some time in Boone National Forrest on our way home. We must have taken the road less traveled again as there was not much to see or do where we went through. I did let Leo get his pole out and fish a little in the stream that ran next to the road.

Realizing that we had went to the wrong area of Boone National Forrest we found our way back to Interstate and started driving back home. We were near Florence, KY when I remembered that a couple friends from 4th grade lived there. My family had lived in Arkansas for a year and I became close friends with the Coulter boys in that year. I called Wade and he said to come to his Mom and Dad's house. He and his brother were both there. Over 20 years had passed since we had seen each other. It didn't matter, 20 years later we ended up hanging out for 4 hours talking fishing, hunting and old times.

As the clocked ticked down the last minutes of the weekend we made it home. It was again a successful road trip. There were definately trials but in the end we managed to do what we set out to do, build memmories.

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